Outsmarting climate change

Source(s): United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Shiny delicious apples hanging from a tree branch in an apple orchard
Zoom Team/Shutterstock

Thirty-three (33) year-old farmer Anna-Kay Young has always had a passion for gardening, but when she was a little girl she was never allowed to follow her heart. 

The moment she tried, her uncles would take her machete and say, ‘Planting is not for you. It’s too hard’.

But that didn’t stop young Anna-Kay from trying. “I would wait until they were not around to spray the garden and weed”, she remembers. At times, to be honest I’d get a few blisters in the palm of hand, my back would swell from the weight of the spray pump but I got used to it.”

Now a thriving Aquaponics farmer, who creatively farms crops and fish together, Anna-Kay has found an innovative way to contribute to the island’s food security using climate smart methods.

“Going into aquaponics or even hydroponics is a good way to plant crops using recycled water all year round. It doesn’t take a lot of water because it’s the same water that is being recycled, there’s no overfishing in the sea,” she said. "Being climate smart and resilient is something that we should all take into consideration".

Anna-Kay is a minority in a sector where cultural norms and perceptions may deny some women and girls in Jamaica equal opportunities to take up farming as a livelihood. Youth account for only 20% of all farmers, while females account for just under one third (31%) of that number. 

But with climate change causing adverse impacts on agricultural production through diminishing water supplies, increased floods, storms, heat stress, pests and disease, both male and female farmers are needed in greater numbers to shore up food security against the climate crisis.

That is why Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, United Kingdom (FDCO) committed 15.3 million USD to create equal opportunities for young women and men to learn climate smart farming and fishing practices under a Caribbean wide project dubbed ‘Enabling Gender-Responsive Disaster Recovery, Climate & Environmental Resilience’ (EnGenDER). The initiative, rolled out in nine countries across the region (Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname) was  implemented in Jamaica by 4-H Jamaica and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Multi Country Office in Jamaica.

More than 300 equipped

The EnGenDER project in Jamaica has reached more than 300 young farmers like Anna Kay, equipping them with the tools they need to withstand the climate crisis.

The aim is to build climate resilience in the agriculture sector, particularly for young women and girls while improving the region’s food security.

A start in aquaponics

Fishing is another important sector where climate smart thinking matters. “If you go to the fisherman right now to buy fish, the majority are parrot fish – the endangered species – and they’re not supposed to be catching those,” Anna Kay warns. With her aquaponics enterprise, she avoids the pitfalls of open sea overfishing, while nourishing her crops from the fish effluent.

To support her dream, the young farmer received the tools she needed from the EnGenDER project to set up a small aquaponics unit in her backyard – consisting of two grow beds, one fish tank, PVC pipes, a submergible water pump, smart plug, grit, blocks, and sand. Without the support, it would have cost her close to a million dollars, she admits. With the smart plug she can regularize the functions of the submergible water pump from anywhere. “It can be programmed from my phone in time regulation to run for an hour and then shut off for an hour to prevent overheating of the pump,” she says.

Ecofriendly fishing and farming all in one

“By using the aquaponics unit, I save on fertilizer, so I don’t release too much ozone-harming chemicals, if any at all. No pesticide is used.”

Anna-Kay says on average, she can reap 50 heads of lettuce every two weeks which she sells to market vendors. With the average price for lettuce hovering at $500, the young farmer takes home approximately $25,000 Jamaican Dollars bi-weekly. She is now looking ahead to harvesting fish in nine months, which fetches $750 per pound at market.

With her current stock of 100 fish, Anna-Kay takes home an additional $75,000 Jamaican Dollars from her small backyard aquaponics unit every nine months.

Javon's goat farming impacted by climate change

Thirty-one (31) year-old goat farmer Javon Dennis, another beneficiary of the EnGenDER project, quickly embraced climate smart lessons when he realized that climate change was impacting his herd numbers.

“I’ve lost so many goats I’ve stopped counting. You realize it when you don’t see some of them coming back into the pen,” said Javon.

He once had over 120 goats. Today, his herd numbers 78.  

“The drought affects me a lot because the goats will stray beyond where they would normally feed and there isn’t enough water for the grass in the area where the goat pen is in” he says. “When they go far from where they normally feed, people would take the animals or hurt them so it’s very difficult operating in this drought, but I’ve learnt to cope with it.”

With help from the EnGenDER project, Javon says he has now found a way to keep most of his goats from wandering too far.

Javon learned about the best grass types to nurture healthy goats; received general goat rearing training and a she-goat for premium breeding; as well as medication for the goats. It takes months to rear a goat to perfection, but Javon says the rewards are good because of premium goat meat prices. 

"The price of mutton is now about $1,500 per pound so with a 25-pound goat I’ll earn $40,000 Jamaican Dollars for just one goat at market,” he calculates.

Now the young farmer has ambitions to delve into cow and pig rearing and dreams about winning an award at the Denbigh Agricultural show in the next three years.

Although farmers and fishers are critical to food security, lingering inequalities result in unrealized potential, while Climate Change and Disasters remain omni present dangers to fresh food supplies. Women and young people face greater challenges than men in accessing resources and securing employment, especially in the aftermath of a disaster. Women also encounter social barriers in benefiting directly or indirectly from what is perceived as ‘men’s work’.

These barriers must fall if the rising tide of climate change-induced global food insecurity is to be addressed. The World Bank says food insecurity pushed up food commodity prices in 2021 which in turn impacted 110 million additional people in low-income countries.

Jamaica's agribusiness sector contributed over US$1.2 billion to the GDP in 2021. That’s about 8% of the island’s GDP.

As more young people like Anna Kay and Javon are given a level playing field to access equal opportunities in the fishing and farming sectors, Jamaica could conceivably increase its food production, staving off the worst impacts of the climate crisis, while ensuring a food secure future for its people. 

Explore further

Country and region Jamaica
Share this

Please note: Content is displayed as last posted by a PreventionWeb community member or editor. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of UNDRR, PreventionWeb, or its sponsors. See our terms of use

Is this page useful?

Yes No Report an issue on this page

Thank you. If you have 2 minutes, we would benefit from additional feedback (link opens in a new window).